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:: Ukraine's fight for the right to ROCK ::



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Ukraine’s fight for the right to Rock

    During Soviet times Ukraine was a leader in the fight of free-minded people and dissidents. Oppression was such that the smallest step toward an opposite viewpoint was punished very severely, seemingly even more severely than in Moscow.

    Rock’n’roll during the Cold War was considered an ideological diversion. Only during Khrushchev’s rule, when the situation became a bit looser, did rock bands begin to appear in Ukraine, at about the end of 60’s. It was a result of the evolution of “driving beats” and “Rhythm and Blues” artists such as.Berezen, Druge Dykhannya, and “The Once”.

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    The later part of the 60s’ marked the rapid growth of pro-western youth movements. Students were creating different musical groups, practicing in their dorms, trying to imitate Elvis Presley, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and others.

    Tape cassettes of western rock bands were copied and spread out amongst the music lovers. At the same time, new local bands were recording their own tapes, which were going from one hand to another along with the western recordings. Concerts were gathering a lot of music fans and you were considered very lucky to make it in. At times you even could find the repercussions of rock’n’roll’s popularity on radio and television.

    But suddenly, at the beginning of the 70’s this massive movement was interrupted. All rock bands were driven underground such as the Eney band.. Some were turned into professional “Vocal Instrumental Bands”, and thus tightly controlled by the State, like “Oreol” and “Arnika”.

    The reasons for the clampdown arose out of the tragic events in Prague, Czechoslovakia, known as “Prague Spring” or the “Spring of Freedom” when in 1968 the Czech freedom movement was crushed by Soviet tanks. Those events echoed tremendously in the USSR. Departments of the KGB’s secret police began to grow rapidly and their fight against dissidence grew as well.

    Rock music was one of their targets. Whole systems of prohibitions and restrictions were implemented. Rock music was banned while Soviet pop culture and “adapted” folk music was propagandized.

    But there remained musicians and fans interested in rock and alternative music. That interest continued to grow even more so in light of it being “banned and prohibited”. The atmosphere of the underground’s secret concerts were appealing and intriguing.

    The 70s brought a unique underground movement not only in music but also in literature and the arts.

    At the same time, the 70s also included years of “Developed Socialism” such as with the Vocal Instrumental Bands (VIA). Each “VIA” band was based in a regional philharmonic theater, with each theater having its own art and administrative director. Musicians were performing only songs, which were approved by the higher authorities and “created” by members of the “Composers Association”. Musicians could play their own songs only after the Art Councils, members of which were also members of the Communist Party and Composers Associations, approved them.

    As a result, the real rock’n’rollers along with those who opposed the existing rules, moved on to genres, which were outside of the Soviet censors control. They played music that didn’t require too many lyrics, and was popular, such as jazz-rock and art-rock as well as other variations along this line of music. Well-known bands of this era were “Krok”, “Reportazh”, “Krosword” and others.

    The 80’s brought new hope to the musical and art landscape of Ukraine. The USSR’s economic system was imploding and rotting away. The wave of freedom could be felt in the air. The Saint Petersburg-Moscow “Red Wave” musical movement was spread widely throughout the USSR as opposition to the existing Regime’. It was a time of tape recorders, of home recordings and hundreds of rerecorded cassette tapes. Bands like “Zoopark”, “Kino”, “Akvarium”, “Alica” were the monsters of the Soviet rock culture.

    The “blossoming” of rock music at the end of 1980s was inspired by Michail Gorbachev’s “Perestroika” (in Ukrainian “perebudova”). All the terms of “openness” and “accelerated prosperity” became popular. The legalization of rock music exploded like a whirlwind. Rock clubs began appearing in every city. All Philharmonic “VIA” bands fled their former “masters”, as the freedom to “rock” was re-born.

    The Kyiv rock club “Kuznya” gave birth to such well known Ukrainian hard rock bands as “Edem”, Perron”, “Kvartira 50”, “Komy Vniz”, “Titanik” and alternative bands “Kolez’kyi Asesor”, “Vopli Vodoplyasova” and “Rabbota Kho”. All played numerous concerts, constantly organizing various promotions and festivals, as clubs all over the country began working as one big musical mechanism. The rock and music clubs during that time created a “ symbiosis” of rehearsal bases, concert stages, informational centers as well as recording and distribution companies.

    The end of the 80’s gave way to a new form of musician, oriented toward the ideals of a national revival of Ukraine. Their ideals were born out of the powerful “Chervona Ruta” festival, which was a gathering point for Ukraine’s nationally aware, conscious, and creative populace. The highlight was the festival in Chernivtsi in 1989 when such famous bands as “Braty Gadyukiny”, “Vika Vradiy”, Zymovyi Sad”, “Komu Vnyz” and “VV” (Vopli Vodoplyasova) were heard for the first time.

    During this wave alot of unique and original Ukrainian bands appeared in Ternopil’, Ivano-Frankivs’k, L’viv, and Kyiv, which were completely different from all others in that they were employing western standards.

    The beginning of the 90s witnessed a search for a National Identity among Ukrainian artists and enthusiasts to find their “niche” in the worlds oceans of musical styles and trends.

    However, the absence of a developed music industry and minimal show business infrastructure served as a deterrent to musicians’ efforts in surviving financially. Many became involved in related fields in order to support their musical aspirations. They created recording studios on their own, built equipment, became concert organizers, produced their own albums, etc. As opposed to pop-music, nobody was able to make a career in rock. No one became rich playing rock.. It was vice versa.

    It remains obvious to us that Ukrainian rock is a pure art form of creative, openhearted people.


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